There are always a number of designs from the past that find their way back into production after many years of languishing in a manufacturer's proverbial cupboard. The poor economic outlook in Europe saw quite a few products brought back to life as a way to add new items to catalogues without spending scarce R&D dollars but 2013 also saw a handful of genuinely exciting reissues that can hold their own against contemporary releases.
Molteni & C, well known for it's cutting edge contemporary designs by Patricia Urquiola and more recently Ron Gilad, has been implementing the reissue a number Gio Ponti classics from the the 1950's in the last couple of years. The D.153.1 armchair from 1953 and the D.555.1 'tea table' from 1954/1955 are two of seven items released so far. The crystal topped table was designed specifically for a house by Ponti in via Dezza in Milan and features Ponti's love of geometric pattern as it's central decorative motif. As was often the case with Ponti's work this involves playing with visual perception.
One of the most exciting reissues for me this year was the lighting range by Bernard Schottlander that has been reissued by the French company DCW Editions. Schottlander only designed lights for a brief period in the 1950’s and early sixties but his designs were as spectacular as those by well-known practitioners like Frenchman, Serge Mouille. Schottlander was born in Germany but lived in England from 1939 and during the war was a welder in a factory. After the war he became a sculptor, welding large public sculptures in steel. The ‘Mantis’ series of lights designed in 1951. The reissued lighting range consists of a wall, floor and table lights - all slightly agricultural - but engineered with simple efficiency. Each lamp has movement at the heart of the design. The shade comes in red or black while the base is available in black or grey.
Arflex is an Italian company that has been around for 65 years and has a wealth of back catalogue to draw on. This year they released two sofas that have origins in famous chairs. The 'Madame' sofa is the sofa version of Marco Zanuso's 'Lady' chair that won a Gold medal at the IX Triennale in MIlan in 1951. Offered with either a curved seat and back or a more conventional rectangular seat/back layout, the sofa really comes into it's own where the seat and back reflect the curvaceous nature of the original chair.
Zanuso's '275' table light was also reissued in 2013 by Oluce. While not particularly well known for his lighting designs Zanuso did design a small number. Designed between 1963 and 1965, the '275' was conceived as a desk lamp but rather than pursue a flexible multi-armed task lamp, Zanuso opted to create a light that pivots 360º around its base. The large 42cm diameter dome is partially translucent. The entire lamp therefore gives off an ambient glow while directing the majority of the light down onto the tabletop. The lamp is available with either a white or black lacquered base but in both instances with a white thermo-plastic shade.
Danish brand, Gubi, has been releasing a large number of classic designs by Greta Grossman and Jacques Adnet in recent years. This year saw the reissue of the 'Turbo' pendant light by Louis Weisdorf. The design uses a complex spiral of aluminium ribbons to create a ball-like but highly sculptural light. The lamp was designed in 1965 and first put into production in 1967. It comes in 36cm and 62cm diameters.
The 'T904' is a beautifully minimal bench of steel and timber designed by Gastone Rinaldi. Reissued by Poltona Frau, the ‘T904’ bench is still thoroughly modern while maintaining strong links to the tubular steel designs of the 1930’s. Gastone Rinaldi was one of the foremost experts on curved tubular steel technology in Italy and he spent a lifetime testing the material to the limit in his extraordinary designs. The 'T904' bench was reissued by Poltrona Frau along with two chair designs by Rinaldi from the 1950’s. Rinaldi was a master of his craft and had worked with all the greatest Italian designers of the Twentieth Century such as Mollino, Ponti and Zanuso. This elegant piece of furniture evokes the genius of the Bauhaus and the work or Le Corbusier and Charlotte Perriand in the 20’s and 30’s, but with its own identity and originality.
Not as well known as many of Arne Jacobsen’s chair designs like the Series 7 or the 'Ant', the ‘Tongue’, designed in 1955, has been reissued by Danish company, Howe. As a small chair it can be used in all sorts of space deprived areas from café’s to meeting rooms where it brings a cute animated quality. The chair is available in either a purist’s form - a moulded timber shell in oak or walnut veneer - or for softies upholstered in Kvadrat Divina fabric or leather.
The ‘Mosquito' chair by Slovenian designer Niko Kralj, is a unique combination of an innovative two-part moulded plywood seat and a double ‘V’ leg design. Designed in 1953, the chair rivals the great American plywood designs of the late forties and early fifties such as the Eames’ DCW chairs and those by Danish architect/designer Arne Jacobsen. While other chairs by Kralj have been in production for some years this particular design was only prototyped in 2012 and is now finally in full production by Slovenian company Rex Kralj. Available in natural beech, white lacquered beech, black stained ash, or with a walnut seat and back with beech legs in a two-tone combination (as shown below).